Put preventative care at the top of your resolution list this year: Opinion

Whether it’s to exercise more, eat better, or learn a skill, many of us have made resolutions for 2023. As a physician, I’d offer an additional resolution that may not sound exciting but could be the key to a longer, healthier life.

My advice: focus on prevention.

This is especially important for seniors, as the risk of health problems increases as we age. Identifying problems early or preventing them completely improves the likelihood of positive outcomes.

For Louisvillians who are enrolled in Original Medicare or a Medicare Advantage plan (which includes the same coverage as Original Medicare plus additional benefits), understanding your benefits can make it easier to stick with this resolution, often at no additional cost. Here are my recommendations to get you started.

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Schedule an annual wellness visit with your provider.

Don’t wait until you are sick or in pain to see your healthcare provider. An annual wellness check, covered by Medicare Part B, is the first step. In-home health and well-being assessments may be a convenient option for those with Medicare Advantage plans.

During the visit, your provider will assess your health risks; discuss screenings, vaccinations and other recommended preventive services based on age, gender and medical and family history; and perform a cognitive assessment to look for signs of impairment. Then your provider can develop a personalized plan to help prevent disease or disability.

Take advantage of covered preventive services and vaccinations.

Preventive screenings are crucial to early diagnosis and treatment, and ultimately may result in improved long-term health outcomes. Medicare Part B coverage includes screenings for many common health problems, like cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, depression and glaucoma. It also covers counseling for behavioral health issues like obesity, tobacco use and alcohol misuse.

With the tripledemic of COVID-19, flu and RSV spreading throughout the Louisville area, it’s important for older adults to stay current with vaccinations. Medicare covers the cost of vaccines for COVID-19, flu, pneumonia and hepatitis B.

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Maximize your supplemental benefits.

Individuals with a Medicare Advantage plan have coverage beyond Medicare Part B that may cover additional health-related benefits, so take advantage of your included preventive-care services.

Most Medicare Advantage plans offer dental, vision and hearing coverage. Tooth and gum problems can increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Your plan may cover dental care and procedures to maintain your oral health and even provide allowances to pay for out-of-pocket expenses. Your plan may also include coverage for eye exams and glasses as well as hearing exams and aids.

For those with a plan that includes prescription drugs, the shingles vaccine is covered and Part D insulins will cost no more than $35 per month.

Other supplemental benefits may include transportation to medical appointments, fitness programs and allowances to help pay for healthy foods and over-the-counter products, like vitamins, pain relievers and toothbrushes.

Prioritize your health this year by taking time to understand and use the benefits in your healthcare plan. Visit Medicare.gov to learn more about covered services.

Dr Val Slayton
Dr Val Slayton

Humana is a Medicare Advantage HMO, HMO SNP, PPO, PPO SNP, AND PFFS organization with a Medicare contract. Enrollment in any Humana plan depends on contract renewal. Allowance amounts cannot be combined with other benefit allowances. Limitations and restrictions may apply. 

Dr. Val Slayton is Regional Vice President of Health Services for Kentucky, Humana.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Healthcare prevention is most important. Make it your goal for 2023